Ruth Dudley Edwards wins the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction
Ruth Dudley Edwards has won the 2010 CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction for Aftermath: The Omagh Bombing & the Families’ Pursuit of Justice, published by Harvill Secker. She was presented with her dagger and cheque by Helen Pepper, one of the judges, at the Daggers Awards Ceremony in the evening of Friday 23rd July, at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate.
Judges praised “The historian and crime-novelist‘s detailed account of the successful struggle, with the assistance of lawyers, to achieve recognition of those responsible.”
In accepting her award, Ruth Dudley Edwards said she was pleased that she had now won awards for both humourous fiction and serious non-fiction.
The CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction is a competition for any non-fiction work on a real-life crime theme or a closely-related subject by an author of any nationality as long as the book was first published in the UK in English. This award has recently been made every two years and the entries had to be published between June 1, 2008 and May 31, 2010.
The other five books on the shortlist (more details below) were:
Major Farran’s Hat by David Cesarani (Heinemann)
Killing Time by David R. Dow (Heinemann)
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde by Jeff Guinn (Simon & Schuster)
Defending the Guilty by Alex McBride (Penguin/Viking)
The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston, with Mario Spezi (Virgin/Random House)
Aftermath: The Omagh Bombing & the Families’ Pursuit of Justice
Ruth Dudley Edwards
Synopsis: In Omagh, on Saturday, 15 August 1998, a massive bomb placed by the so-called Real IRA murdered unborn twins, six men, twelve women and eleven children. It was the worst massacre in Northern Ireland’s modern history – yet from it came a most extraordinary tale of human resilience, as families of murdered people channelled their grief into action. As the bombers congratulated themselves on escaping justice, the families determined on a civil case against them and their organisation. No one had ever done this before.
Although the police believed they knew the identities of the killers, there was insufficient evidence to bring charges. Families of ten of the dead decided to pursue these men through the civil courts, where the burden of proof is lower. This is the remarkable account of how these families – who had no knowledge of the law and no money, and included a cleaner, a mechanic and a bookie – became internationally recognised, formidable campaigners and surmounted countless daunting obstacles to win a famous victory.
Judges’ comments: ‘The historian and crime-novelist‘s detailed account of the successful struggle, with the assistance of lawyers, to achieve recognition of those responsible.’
Ruth Dudley Edwards is an historian, journalist and crime writer. She was born and brought up in Dublin, was a student at University College Dublin, a post-graduate at Cambridge University and now lives in London. Her non-fiction includes Victor Gollancz: A Biography (winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize), The Pursuit of Reason: The Economist, 1843-1993 and The Faithful Tribe: An Intimate Portrait of the Loyal Institutions. The Anglo-Irish Murders, her ninth crime novel, is a satire on the peace process. Her tenth, Carnage on the Committee, was set in literary London, and Murdering Americans, set in the academic world of Indiana, is her latest.
Ruth has been shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Award for the best first novel and twice for the Last Laugh award for the funniest crime novel of the year — Murdering Americans won the Last Laugh award at CrimeFest, Bristol, 2008.
Her website is www.ruthdudleyedwards.co.uk
Major Farran’s Hat
Synopsis: In May 1947 Alexander Rubowitz, a Jewish teenager, was mysteriously abducted in Jerusalem. He was never seen again. Rubowitz was active in a Zionist underground group fighting British rule in Palestine. Witnesses said he was seized by British policemen. A grey felt hat found at the scene was traced to Major Roy Farran, a highly decorated ex-SAS officer leading a covert counter-terrorist squad. As evidence of murder grew Farran fled to Syria. He was persuaded to return and was acquitted after a sensational court martial. He came home to a hero’s welcome.
But the Zionist underground swore vengeance. It had already penetrated British homeland security and now it sent its top man after Farran. Setting Farran's remarkable story in the context of the first modern campaign of international terrorism, Major Farran’s Hat draws on recently declassified files of the Security Services to reveal the full extent and ambition of Jewish terrorist attacks on Britain in the late 1940s. Part Boys’s Own adventure, part narrative history, it solves a murder mystery and exposes a shady episode in the final years of the British empire. This story of violence, cover ups and expediency throws light on Britain's legacy in the Middle East, with remarkable echoes of today’s War on Terror.
Judges’ comments: ‘A scandalous case – long-forgotten in Britain, but memorialised in Jerusalem – of the abduction and disappearance of a young Israeli boy by a British security agent.’
David Cesarani is research professor in history at Royal Holloway, University of London. In February 2005, he was awarded the OBE for services to Holocaust Education and advising the government with regard to the establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day.
Killing Time: One Man’s Race to Stop an Execution
David R. Dow
Synopsis: How does it feel to defend a serial killer? To tell a young man that he will be executed in twenty minutes' time? To explain to your five-year-old son that you're late because you couldn't help someone? To realise that a death row convict whose life you hold in your hands is actually innocent? David Dow is a leading death row attorney in Texas, a state where 99 per cent of execution appeals are rejected. He defends convicted murderers for the simple reason that he feels putting them to death is wrong. He knows his clients are vicious, violent monsters, but killing a murderer is homicide, and homicide, as David sees it, is morally insupportable.
Yet this routine of resignation - to the fate of both his clients and his young family, whom he can feel slipping away from him by the day - is interrupted by the worst thing that could happen to him: the realization that a client is innocent. Not just undeserving of his imminent execution, like all his other clients, but actually innocent. In this gripping and hauntingly honest memoir, David confronts a bleak yet stirring scenario: to lose this fight, as he knows is nearly inevitable, will be to watch an innocent man be murdered. Written with searing immediacy, Killing Time is both a masterpiece of personal narrative, and a morally overwhelming exploration of justice, integrity, and humanity.
Judges’ comments: ‘A haunting memoir, by an American defence lawyer, of his fight to save the lives of possibly-innocent murderers condemned to death in Houston, Texas.’
David R. Dow is professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center and an internationally recognized figure in the fight against the death penalty. He is the founder and director of the Texas Innocence. He lives in Houston, Texas.
Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie & Clyde
Simon & Schuster
Synopsis: Bonnie & Clyde were the first American icons created by modern media. These media-savvy gangsters nurtured a self-image of murderous glamour for Depression-era Americans who hungered for entertainment and larger-than-life characters who defied authority. But the fact is, they were among the most inept criminals in history. Just kids in their early twenties when they started robbing banks and mom-and-pop stores, and killing lawmen, Bonnie and Clyde botched almost every bank robbery they attempted, and sometimes they had to break into gum machines to get meal money. Yet, thanks to the media, Bonnie and Clyde were a great, epic love story and became national icons on a par with cinema gangsters Jimmy Cagney and Edward G. Robinson. Go Down Together was a finalist for an Edgar Award in 2010.
Judges’ comments: ‘A meticulously detailed account, with previously unpublished family material, of the remarkably unglamorous career of the notorious pair’s two-year crime spree.’
Jeff Guinn is an award-winning journalist and author of both fiction and nonfiction. He is a former books editor and senior writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and has appeared on major US radio and tv stations. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas.
There's more on the Simon & Schuster website.
Defending the Guilty
Synopsis: “As a criminal barrister, you work with the material you get: a junkie shoplifter with thirty-five previous convictions and four packs of Lidl’s frozen chicken stuffed down his trousers is heading only one way…” Every day, like every criminal barrister in this country, Alex McBride stands up in court and, with nothing but quick-thinking, sharp-talking and his hard-won legal expertise, attempts to save people from criminal conviction, prison, even a lifetime behind bars. Sometimes he's had only a few hours to prepare his case. Sometimes his client is obviously guilty. In this hilarious, heart-stopping memoir, he takes us behind the scenes of Britain's criminal justice system - in barristers’ chambers, in the courtroom, in the cells and on the streets - introducing us to its outlandish personalities, arcane eccentricities and its many moving stories of triumph and defeat. Whether he's defending hapless teenagers at Harlow Youth Court or prosecuting gold bullion robbers at the Bailey, his hair-raising tales reveal all the secrets of courtroom success and what it takes to survive in this chaotic world of fluked escapes and crushed hopes. Throughout he attempts to answer that most important question: how do we ensure that the guilty are convicted and the innocent walk free?
Judges’ comments: ‘A light-hearted but instructive description, by a criminal barrister, of the early career of a leading defense lawyer, and the problems that have to be overcome.’
Alex McBride is a criminal barrister. He is author of the ‘Common Law’ column in Prospect magazine and has contributed to the New Statesman and From Our Own Correspondent.
The Monster of Florence
Douglas Preston, with Mario Spezi
Synopsis: In 2000, bestselling author Douglas Preston fulfilled a lifelong dream when he moved with his family to a villa in Italy. But after settling in an idyllic village just outside Florence, he discovered that the olive grove in front of his family’s new home had been the scene of one of the most infamous killings by the Monster of Florence. Preston, intrigued, met Italian journalist Mario Spezi, who has followed the case since the first murders in 1974, to learn more.
Fascinated by the tale, Preston began to work with Spezi on the case. Here is the true story of their search to uncover and confront the man they believe is the Monster. In an ironic twist of fate that echoes the dark traditions of the city’s bloody history, Preston and Spezi themselves became targets of a bizarre police investigation.
With the gripping suspense of Preston’s novels, The Monster of Florence is a remarkable and harrowing chronicle of murder, mutilation, vengeance and ruined lives – with Preston and Spezi caught in the middle.
The authors have created a website about the book: www.monsterofflorence.co.uk
Judges’ comments: ‘An investigation into one of the most infamous figures in recent Italian history, a serial killer who ritually murdered 14 young lovers, and has never been caught.’
Douglas Preston is a renowned author of both fiction and non-fiction, including The Codex, Relic and The Book of the Dead (co-written with Lincoln Child), which topped the New York Times bestseller list for six weeks. He has written articles for The New Yorker, Reader’s Digest, National Geographic, Harper’s, Smithsonian and Atlantic. He also worked for the American Museum of Natural History as managing editor of Curator magazine.
The Official Website of Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child: www.prestonchild.com
Mario Spezi, a highly decorated journalist, has covered many of the most important criminal cases in Italy, including those involving terrorism and the Mafia, and has been investigating the Monster of Florence case since the beginning. He has also published both fiction and nonfiction books in Italy and several other countries.
Website (in Italian): www.mariospezi.it
Brian Innes, Chairperson: Graduated in chemistry, and worked for some years in biochemical research. He is the author of over 40 books, mainly on criminal matters, and in 16 foreign languages.
Lesley Grant-Adamson: Lesley Grant-Adamson’s 20 books include crime novels, non-fiction crime, travel, and Writing Crime and Suspense Fiction. She writes short stories and poetry, teaches creative writing, and was Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow at Cambridge.
Don Hale: In 2001 Don won an International Peace Prize, and was voted Journalist of the year. He was later made an OBE for campaigning journalism. His more recent books include the true story of the first Royal Detective – Don’s great grandfather.
Professor Allan Jamieson, Director of the Forensic Institute in Glasgow: Widely recognised as an expert in forensics science, he is also co-editor in chief of Wiley’s Encyclopedia of Forensic Sciences.
Helen Pepper: Helen’s first job was with the Forensic Science Service. She currently works as a senior lecturer in Police Studies at Teesside University. Helen enjoys helping crime writers with their research, and is also a consultant for ITV drama.
The CWA Non-Fiction Dagger has recently been awarded every other year. Therefore, to be eligible in this round, books must have had their first UK publication between 1 June 2008 and 31 May 2010. However, CWA Chair Tom Harper announced at the ceremony that from next year it is to be an annual award again.